Don’t let debt rule your life! Here are 8 tips on how you can pay off debt fast!
Debt can be a black hole.
You get sucked in and can easily stay there for months and months (years!).
When I was first married, my husband and I had a little credit card debt. We agreed that we wanted to pay off our debt fast and then live debt-free for the rest of our lives.
We worked hard, spent less than we made, lived simply and paid off our credit card debt quickly.
A few years into our marriage, I wanted to go back to grad school.
This meant taking out a ridiculous amount of money in a loan ($20,000+).
At the time, my husband had a decent job and we agreed that if I would go back to school then we would find a way to pay it off fast.
(Looking back, I didn’t think it through and probably shouldn’t have made such a hasty decision to go into debt. What was I thinking?!)
I don’t recommend going into debt at all (even for school if possible!), but there are some things that we did to pay off my school debt quickly!
Here’s what we did during that time. (And you can too!)
Before taking out the loan for grad school we had NO debt because we had already lived cheaply for several years. This lifestyle habit helped us pay off the loan faster because we had extra money in an emergency account.
Related: Emergency Funds: Why you need one & How to start
How did we “live cheaply”?
The “American Dream” says we all need a huge house, at least 2 cars and lots of electronic toys and gadgets.
My husband and I, however, lived in a small, inexpensive apartment (had no mortgage) and had only one car that was 20+ years old and paid off (my husband took the bus to work).
We bought many things used (clothes, household items, etc.) and shopped for bargains for other items that we really needed (Black Friday sales, end of season sales, coupons, etc.).
There are a lot of ways you can live cheaply:
- walk or ride the bus or carpool
- drink water instead of coffee or soda
- lower your thermostat
- get rid of cable
- compare insurance and cell phone plans to find a better deal
- get rid of memberships or subscriptions you don’t use
- make meals at home
Related: Meal planning made easy
Keep a budget
My husband and I kept a budget for years and stuck to it fairly consistently.
Knowing how much money we made, where it was going and how much extra we had at the end of each month enabled us to use any leftover money to pay extra on my student loans.
Now that I’m a single mom, I find that keeping to a budget is vital! Knowing how much money is coming in (and how much you have to spend on necessities), helps relieve so much financial stress!
Pay more than the minimum amount
I began receiving loan statements while still in grad school and I started paying a little bit each month (my husband was working and we had a decent, steady income).
Then, after graduation, I paid more than the minimum amount each month (as much extra as I could).
Pay more than the minimum amount and as often as you can.
I consistently paid more than the minimum requirement on my loan. If there was any extra money at the end of the month, I put it toward my loan.
If you only pay the minimum each month, you’ll accrue extra interest and it will end up costing you a lot more in the long run. I used every bit of extra money to pay off my student loan fast.
Put any extra money toward your debt
Any extra gifts we received went toward the loan.
- A gift from your grandparents?
- A bonus?
- An unexpected raise?
- A rebate?
Use it to pay down your debt!
Get a side-hustle
Do you have any extra opportunities to earn money?
Think outside of the box and you can come up with many ideas for side-hustles:
- odd jobs
- night or weekend shifts
- seasonal work
- sell items on Craigslist or OfferUp
- have a garage sale
A friend of mine finds odd jobs through Craigslist (one time she had to address envelopes by hand and was paid by the envelope.)
Related: Easy Side-Hustles for Moms
You can find ways to cut costs each month to have extra money to pay towards your debt. Some of the ways that we saved money:
- didn’t have cable or Netflix (and I still don’t)
- ate out 1 time per month or less
- limited our Starbucks drinks (1-2 times per month at most)
- my husband rode the bus to work (saved on gas)
- rarely went to the movie theater (borrowed movies for free from the local library)
Keep your goal in mind
(Pay off debt and stay out of debt!).
I am now committed to living debt-free (no more student loans here!).
Even after I finished grad school, our goal was to live without debt and this greatly increased our desire to pay my loans off fast!
I still find ways to save money each month (for example, by not having cable, cooking at home, attending free community events with my kids).
Set aside “Fun Money”
When I was married, one thing that my husband and I did for years (even when we had loans or credit card debt to pay off) was set aside “fun money” each month.
We allocated $40 for each of us to spend however we wanted.
At that time, my husband liked to get snacks at work and occasionally go out for coffee with his coworkers. I would sometimes use this money for coffee or special treats.
There were many times that I didn’t use all of my $40. Any money that was left at the end of the month, would go toward paying off my loan.
Don’t completely cut out all fun things that cost money!
This is unrealistic and you’ll lose momentum quickly if you’re too strict. But, do have a budget and keep the fun to a minimum.
If you like to go to the movies – save money for going out once a month.
If Starbucks is your treat and you go multiple times a week – cut it down to once a week (or twice a month) and put the extra money you will save toward paying off your debt.
Making some small changes, having a commitment to live cheaply and a desire to pay off debt fast helped us to be debt-free in a short amount of time. (I paid off my $20,000+ student loan in less than 8 months!) What has worked for you? I’d love to hear your tips for paying off debt fast!